Thursday, September 13, 2007

Are you cut out to be a priest?

In a recent article in The Living Church, The Rev. Peter J. Surrey of the Diocese of Chicago writes:

Recently, there has been considerable speculation as to what type of person would make an excellent priest. Who is best equipped to serve with distinction, the church in troubled times? Given that we are always faced with changing conditions, what is the best human model to seek as a candidate for the priesthood?

To many, including myself, these are among the most important questions facing the Anglican Communion. To some, the best would be an entrepreneurial candidate who can provide more innovative approaches to the future. Others believe the need is for people with a MBA orientation. Such candidates might bring fiscal stability, management and marketing skills to the church. Others, concerned with poverty and injustice, want socially conscious individuals who can speak to the great social ills of our day. These potential clergy would have advanced social and people skills, making them potential agents of social change.

All of these positions have merit and should be examined. Yet to many of us who have been ordained for a long time, there is a hesitation about fully accepting any of them. There are time-tested verities that go with the priestly vocation and of which all people should be aware. These truths are found in the Bible. We must not lose the core of our belief in an effort to create a new and improved priest.

The Epistle to the Ephesians is concerned with the nature of the Church. In Chapter 4, the author reminds us that there is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to one hope of your call. No person who aspires to enter holy orders can be allowed to forget that when he or she was baptized, that person joined a united body. In a real sense the Church, simply because it is an institution for which Christ died and then physically rose, will always be a unity no matter how rent by schism, personal dislike, or heresy. It is bound by the prayers of Jesus in the Gospel according to St. John that they all should be one and that we should all love one another. In the present Episcopal Church there is a great need for peacemakers.

Any person who can bring peace within a family, group or assembly is helping to create a unity. Peacemakers have been given a great blessing, for as the Sermon on the Mount testifies, they shall be called the sons of God. How valuable this gift will be to a future member of the clergy. Often the peacemaker will end up by being disliked by both sides.

Those who believe that peace just arrives are not always realistic, for often a peacemaker, like a baseball umpire, must make unpopular choices. Consequently, a peacemaker must often show discipline and self-control. Central to the peacemaking process must be the love of God.

St. Augustine, in his Confessions, when describing his mother, states that she showed herself such a peacemaker that hearing on both sides most bitter things ... she would never disclose aught of one to the other, but what might lead to their reconcilement. Monica also knew the value of saying nothing when it would help the peacemaking process. How does one deal with the feelings of others? The willingness to hear what others say and then to extract from those words positive expressions which will enhance the peacemaking process and solve emotional disagreements is certainly one way. . . . it is obvious that our future priest should have a firm grasp of group dynamics. . . .

Above all else, in imitation of Christ himself, a priest is a servant of the people.

In peace,

The Rev. Linda McCloud
Founding Pastor
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek
Photo: Cross in the woods at
St. Margaret of Scotland Episcopal Church
Moultrie, Georgia, Fall, 2006

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